Fisheries of the Northeastern United States; Recreational Management Measures for the Summer Flounder, Scup, and Black Sea Bass Fisheries; Fishing Year 2015, 35255-35259 [2015-15086]

Download as PDF Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 118 / Friday, June 19, 2015 / Rules and Regulations rmajette on DSK2TPTVN1PROD with RULES If a carrier’s non-temporary HMSP is denied, suspended or revoked pursuant to § 385.421, the carrier will have various options for seeking administrative review and providing evidence of corrective action. If the suspension or revocation is based on a less than satisfactory safety rating, the carrier may request administrative review of the proposed rating under § 385.15, or may request upgrade of a proposed safety rating based on corrective action under § 385.17, as provided in § 385.423(a). The carrier may seek administrative review of other grounds for a proposed suspension or revocation as provided in § 385.423(c). A proposed suspension or revocation under § 385.421(c)(2) will not become effective during the pendency of a request for administrative review that is timely-filed during the 30-day timeframe from the date of service of the written notice of proposed suspension or revocation. The 30-day effective date and the tolling of this date by a request for administrative review of proposed suspensions or revocations that are not related to a less than satisfactory safety rating allows the carrier time to take and submit evidence of corrective action. The second recommendation in the HMSP Report to Congress was for FMCSA to institute an ongoing requirement to more closely monitor HMSP carriers with insufficient SMS data—that is, HMSP carriers that rarely undergo roadside inspections and have a safety rating over 4 years old. Because of the lack of information and oversight on these carriers, FMCSA will conduct comprehensive investigations for HMSP carriers when the carrier has insufficient data to calculate a percentile in SMS during any month of the previous 48month period. HMSP carriers will not be allowed to operate for more than four years without either having enough safety performance data to confirm compliance, or having received a compliance review that results in a satisfactory rating. By instituting a specific 4-year investigation cycle for non-temporary HMSP carriers with insufficient safety data, these carriers will become subject to increased oversight. These changes will be effective August 18, 2015. Issued on: June 8, 2015. T.F. Scott Darling, III, Chief Counsel. [FR Doc. 2015–15091 Filed 6–18–15; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4910–EX–P VerDate Sep<11>2014 15:11 Jun 18, 2015 Jkt 235001 DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 648 [Docket No. 150211144–5509–02] RIN 0648–BE89 Fisheries of the Northeastern United States; Recreational Management Measures for the Summer Flounder, Scup, and Black Sea Bass Fisheries; Fishing Year 2015 National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Final rule. AGENCY: NMFS is implementing management measures for the 2015 summer flounder, scup, and black sea bass recreational fisheries. The implementing regulations for these fisheries require NMFS to publish recreational measures for each fishing year. The intent of these measures is to constrain recreational catch to established limits and prevent overfishing of the summer flounder, scup, and black sea bass resources. DATES: Effective June 19, 2015. ADDRESSES: Copies of the Supplemental Information Report and other supporting documents for the recreational harvest measures are available from Dr. Christopher M. Moore, Executive Director, Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council, Suite 201, 800 N. State Street, Dover, DE 19901. The recreational harvest measures document is also accessible via the Internet at: http:// www.greateratlantic.fisheries.noaa.gov. SUMMARY: FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Moira Kelly, Fishery Policy Analyst, (978) 281–9218. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: General Background The summer flounder, scup, and black sea bass fisheries are managed cooperatively under the provisions of the Summer Flounder, Scup, and Black Sea Bass Fishery Management Plan (FMP) developed by the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council and the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, in consultation with the New England and South Atlantic Fishery Management Councils. The PO 00000 Frm 00079 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 35255 management units specified in the FMP include summer flounder (Paralichthys dentatus) in U.S. waters of the Atlantic Ocean from the southern border of North Carolina northward to the U.S./ Canada border, and scup (Stenotomus chrysops) and black sea bass (Centropristis striata) in U.S. waters of the Atlantic Ocean from 35°13.3′ N. lat. (the approximate latitude of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina) northward to the U.S./Canada border. States manage these three species within 3 nautical miles (4.83 km) of their coasts, under the Commission’s plan for summer flounder, scup, and black sea bass. The applicable species-specific Federal regulations govern vessels and individual fishermen fishing in Federal waters of the exclusive economic zone (EEZ), as well as vessels possessing a summer flounder, scup, or black sea bass Federal charter/party vessel permit, regardless of where they fish. A proposed rule to implement the 2015 Federal recreational management measures (minimum fish size, season, and possession limit) for the summer flounder, scup, and black sea bass fisheries was published in the Federal Register on May 5, 2015 (80 FR 25656), with a 15-day comment period that ended on May 20, 2015. Additional background and information on the process to develop the measures described is provided in the preamble to the proposed rule and is not repeated here. 2015 Recreational Management Measures NMFS is implementing the following measures that would apply in the Federal waters of the EEZ. These measures apply to all federally permitted party/charter vessels with applicable summer flounder, scup, or black sea bass permits, regardless of where they fish, unless the state in which they land implements measures that are more restrictive. These measures are intended to achieve, but not exceed, the previously established recreational harvest limits for these fisheries (December 30, 2014; 79 FR 78311). More detail on these proposed measures is provided in the following sections. E:\FR\FM\19JNR1.SGM 19JNR1 35256 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 118 / Friday, June 19, 2015 / Rules and Regulations TABLE 1—SUMMARY OF 2015 SUMMER FLOUNDER, SCUP, AND BLACK SEA BASS RECREATIONAL MANAGEMENT MEASURES Minimum size Summer Flounder, through December 31, 2015. Summer Flounder, beginning January 1, 2016. Scup ..................................... Black Sea Bass ................... Possession limit Season Conservation equivalency—specific management measures determined by state of landing (see Table 2). 18 inches (45.7 cm) .......... 4 fish .................................. May 1–September 30. 9 inches (25.4 cm) ............ 12.5 inches (31.8 cm) ....... 50 fish ................................ 15 fish ................................ January 1–December 31. May 15–September 18, October 22–December 31. Summer Flounder Recreational Management Measures This rule implements the Council and Commission recommendation to use conservation equivalency to manage the 2015 summer flounder recreational fishery. The 2015 recreational harvest limit for summer flounder is 7.38 million lb (3,347 mt). Final landings for 2014 were 7.39 million lb (3,354 mt), just above the recreational harvest limit for 2015. Conservation equivalency, as established by Framework Adjustment 2 (July 29, 2011; 66 FR 36208), allows each state to establish its own recreational management measures to achieve its state harvest limit partitioned by the Commission from the coastwide recreational harvest limit, as long as the combined effect of all of the states’ management measures achieves the same level of conservation as would Federal coastwide measures. Framework Adjustment 6 (July 26, 2006; 71 FR 42315) allowed states to form regions for conservation equivalency in order to minimize differences in regulations for anglers fishing in adjacent waters. The Council and Board voted to maintain the conservation equivalency structure that was in place for fishing year 2014, as follows: (1) Massachusettes; (2) Rhode Island; (3) Connecticut, New York, and New Jersey; (4) Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia; and (5) North Carolina. All states within a region must implement identical measures (i.e., minimum size, possession limit, and season length). By implementing conservation equivalency, the Federal summer flounder regulations are suspended, and vessels are only subject to the measures for the state in which they land. This means that minimum fish sizes, possession limits, and fishing seasons developed and adopted by the five regions from Massachusetts to North Carolina replace the Federal waters measures for 2015. The Commission notified the NMFS Greater Atlantic Regional Administrator by letter dated April 30, 2015, that the 2015 summer flounder recreational fishery management measures implemented by the states and regions described above have been reviewed by the Commission’s Technical Committee and approved by the Commission’s Summer Flounder Management Board. The correspondence indicates that the Commission-approved management measures are projected to restrict 2015 recreational summer flounder coastwide landings consistent with the statespecific requirements established by the Technical Committee and Board through the Commission process. Based on the recommendation of the Commission, we find that the recreational summer flounder fishing measures implemented for 2015 in state waters are, collectively, the conservation equivalent of the season, minimum size, and possession limit prescribed in §§ 648.104(b), 648.105, and 648.106(a), respectively. According to § 648.107(a)(1), vessels subject to the recreational fishing measures of this part and landing summer flounder in a state with an approved conservation equivalency program shall not be subject to Federal measures, and shall instead be subject to the recreational fishing measures implemented by the state in which they land. Section 648.107(a) has been amended to recognize state-implemented measures as conservation equivalent of the coastwide recreational management measures for 2015. The 2015 summer flounder management measures adopted by the individual states vary according to the state of landing, as specified in Table 2. TABLE 2—2015 COMMISSION-APPROVED CONSERVATION EQUIVALENT RECREATIONAL MANAGEMENT MEASURES FOR SUMMER FLOUNDER Minimum size (inches) Minimum size (cm) 16 18 18 18 18 16 16 16 16 15 State 40.6 45.7 45.7 45.7 45.7 40.6 40.6 40.6 40.6 38.1 rmajette on DSK2TPTVN1PROD with RULES Massachusetts ............................................ Rhode Island .............................................. Connecticut * ............................................... New York .................................................... New Jersey * ............................................... Delaware ..................................................... Maryland ..................................................... Potomac River Fisheries Commission ....... Virginia ........................................................ North Carolina ............................................ Possession limit (number of fish) Open season 5 8 5 5 5 4 4 4 4 6 May 22–September 30. May 1–December 31. May 17–September 21. May 17–September 21. May 23–September 26. All Year. All Year. All year. All year. All Year. * Note: At 46 designated shore sites in Connecticut, anglers may keep 5 fish at 16 inches (40.6 cm), May 17–September 21. At 1 designated site in New Jersey, anglers may keep 2 fish at 16.0 inches (40.6 cm), May 23–September 26. In addition, this action maintains the current default coastwide measures (18inch (45.7-cm) minimum size, 4-fish VerDate Sep<11>2014 15:11 Jun 18, 2015 Jkt 235001 possession limit, May 1–September 30 open fishing season), that become PO 00000 Frm 00080 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 effective January 1, 2016, when conservation equivalency expires. E:\FR\FM\19JNR1.SGM 19JNR1 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 118 / Friday, June 19, 2015 / Rules and Regulations Scup Recreational Management Measures NMFS is implementing the Council and Commission’s recommended scup recreational management measures for 2015 in Federal waters. The measures for the 2015 scup recreational fishery are: 9-inch (22.9-cm) minimum fish size; 50-fish per person per trip possession limit; and an open season of January 1 through December 31. The 2015 scup recreational harvest limit is 6.80 million lb (3,084 mt). Final 2014 scup recreational landings were 4.12 million lb (1,870 mt). The increase in the possession limit from 30 to 50 fish is intended to promote an increase in recreational scup fishing in order to more fully achieve, but not exceed, the recreational harvest limit. rmajette on DSK2TPTVN1PROD with RULES Black Sea Bass Recreational Management Measures This final rule implements the Council and Commission’s recommended recreational management measures to constrain landings for black sea bass in 2015: A 12.5-inch (31.8-cm) minimum size, 15-fish possession limit, and open seasons of May 15–September 21 and October 22–December 31. The 2015 black sea bass recreational harvest limit is 2.33 million lb (1,056 mt). The final 2014 landings were 3.65 million lb (1,656 mt). During development of these and the state measures, projected landings for 2014 were 3.45 million lb (1,565 mt), which requires a 33-percent reduction in landings relative to the 2015 recreational harvest limit. Recreational black sea bass catch occurs primarily in state waters in the states of New Jersey through Massachusetts (i.e., the northern region). Since 2011, the management measures in the northern region have been more restrictive than in Federal waters. The northern states, through the Commission process, have implemented 2015 measures to achieve the 33-percent reduction in landings from each state that was projected to be needed when this action was under development. This reduction, in combination with the Council’s recommendation of maintaining the status quo measures in Federal waters, are intended to achieve, but not exceed, the recreational harvest limit and recreational annual catch limit in 2015. The southern region states (Delaware through Cape Hatteras, North Carolina) have implemented state waters measures that are equivalent to the Federal measures. The states of Maine and New Hampshire have implemented recreational black sea bass measures for the first time in response VerDate Sep<11>2014 15:11 Jun 18, 2015 Jkt 235001 to the stock being more commonly found in these states’ waters. In 2012, recreational black sea bass catch exceeded the annual catch limit of 2.52 million lb (1,143 mt) by 129 percent. In 2013, recreational black sea bass catch exceeded the annual catch limit of 2.9 million lb (1,315 mt) by 5 percent. Because the average catch for these two years exceeds the average annual catch limit from the same timeframe, as described in the regulations, an accountability measure is applicable to the 2015 fishery. An accountability measure was implemented for the 2014 fishing year because of the 2012 overage. The 2015 measures are functionally the same as those implemented last year to comply with the accountability measure (12.5inch (31.8-cm) minimum size, 15-fish possession limit, and 201-day fishing season). Continuing these regulations preserves the accountability measure that was applied last year; as such, no further accountability measures are necessary for 2015. Additional Regulatory Change This rule also clarifies that the regulations for summer flounder, scup, and black sea bass possession limits are per person, per trip. While it is clear in the FMP and subsequent amendments and framework adjustments that the possession limits are intended to apply for the entirety of a fishing trip, regardless of the length of that trip, the regulations were less specific. This action corrects that oversight. Comments and Responses Three comments were received on the proposed rule. These comments were not directly related to the 2015 recreational management measures as proposed, but raised more general issues. No changes to the 2015 recreational management measures are being made as a result. Comment 1: The first commenter expressed concern that reduced black sea bass fishing would result in increased pressure on other stocks, such as red hake, bluefish, and winter flounder, and noted a marked increase in fishing on red hake when other recreational fisheries have restrictive measures. The commenter advised leaving the fishery open during the summer months. Response: The Federal black sea bass fishery will be open during the summer months, but some states may implement more restrictive seasons in order to achieve the reduction necessary, described above. NMFS has no authority over the states’ measures and they are not the subject of this rule. In addition, PO 00000 Frm 00081 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 35257 the other species noted by the commenter are all federally managed species with annual catch limits and accountability measures designed to ensure catch stays within scientificallybased levels. Comment 2: The second commenter was not specific to which measures he was referring, but noted that recreational measures should not be made more restrictive and that more restrictive measures should be placed on the commercial fishery. Response: This rulemaking is specific to the recreational fisheries for summer flounder, scup, and black sea bass only. For all three species managed under the Summer Flounder, Scup, and Black Sea Bass FMP, the commercial and recreational sectors have separate annual catch limits. The amount of landings allocated to each sector is specified in the FMP. This allocation structure is intended to ensure that neither sector is held accountable for catch overages in the other sector. The commercial fisheries are regulated with seasonal, gear, permit, and landings restrictions. These combinations of measures, both in Federal and state waters, are designed to achieve, but not exceed, the commercial coastwide landings quotas. The commercial accountability measures require a pound-for-pound payback of any quota or annual catch limit overages. In recent years, small overages of the commercial quota or commercial annual catch limit have been accounted for by reducing the following year’s quota equal to the amount of the overage, as needed. Further restrictions on the commercial fishery are not warranted at this time. Should the commercial catch need to be reduced for any of these species, those changes would be implemented in a commercial sector-specific rulemaking. Comment 3: The commenter noted that limits on the number and size of fish caught recreationally were important to the long-term sustainability of the fisheries. Response: NMFS agrees and is implementing these measures specifically to ensure that the scientifically-based recreational harvest limits are not exceeded. Classification The Administrator, Greater Atlantic Region, NMFS, determined that the rule implementing the 2015 summer flounder, scup, and black sea bass recreational management measures is necessary for the conservation and management of the summer flounder, scup, and black sea bass fisheries and that it is consistent with the MagnusonStevens Fishery Conservation and E:\FR\FM\19JNR1.SGM 19JNR1 rmajette on DSK2TPTVN1PROD with RULES 35258 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 118 / Friday, June 19, 2015 / Rules and Regulations Management Act and other applicable laws. This final rule has been determined to be not significant for purposes of Executive Order 12866. The Assistant Administrator for Fisheries, NOAA, finds good cause to waive the requirement for a 30-day delay in effectiveness under the provisions of section 553(d) of the Administrative Procedure Act because a delay in its effectiveness would not serve any legitimate purpose, while unfairly prejudicing federally permitted charter/party vessels. This action will increase the possession limit for the recreational scup fishery in Federal waters and allow federally permitted charter/party vessels to be subject to the new summer flounder measures in their respective states. Because some states’ summer flounder fisheries are already open or will open during the 30-day period following publication of this rule, federally permitted charter/party vessels would be restricted to the existing summer flounder coastwide regulations (18-inch (45.7-cm) minimum size and a 4-fish per person possession limit) until the Federal regulations are effective. This would unnecessarily disadvantage federally permitted vessels, which would be subject to the more restrictive measures while statelicensed vessels could be engaged in fishing activities under this year’s management measures. If this final rule were delayed for 30 days, the fishery would likely forego some amount of landings and revenues during the delay period. While these restrictions would be alleviated after this rule becomes effective, fishermen may be not able to recoup the lost economic opportunity of foregone trips that would result from delaying the effectiveness of this action. Finally, requiring a 30-day delay before the final rule becomes effective would not provide any benefit to the regulated parties. Unlike actions that require an adjustment period to comply with new rules, charter/party operators will not have to purchase new equipment or otherwise expend time or money to comply with these management measures. Rather, complying with this final rule simply means adhering to the published management measures for each relevant species of fish while the charter/party operators are engaged in fishing activities. For these reasons, the Assistant Administrator finds good cause to waive the 30-day delay and to implement this rule upon publication in the Federal Register. The Chief Counsel for Regulation of the Department of Commerce certified VerDate Sep<11>2014 15:11 Jun 18, 2015 Jkt 235001 to the Chief Counsel for Advocacy of the Small Business Administration during the proposed rule stage that this action would not have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities. The factual basis for the certification was published in the proposed rule and is not repeated here. No comments were received regarding this certification. As a result, a regulatory flexibility analysis was not required and none was prepared. There are no new reporting or recordkeeping requirements contained in any of the alternatives considered for this action. List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 648 Fisheries, Fishing, Reporting and recordkeeping requirements. Dated: June 15, 2015. Samuel D. Rauch III, Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine Fisheries Service. For the reasons set out in the preamble, 50 CFR part 648 is amended as follows: PART 648—FISHERIES OF THE NORTHEASTERN UNITED STATES 1. The authority citation for part 648 continues to read as follows: ■ Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq. 2. In § 648.106, paragraphs (a) and (c) are revised to read as follows: ■ § 648.106 Summer flounder possession restrictions. (a) Party/charter and recreational possession limits. Unless otherwise specified pursuant to § 648.107, no person shall possess more than four summer flounder in, or harvested from, the EEZ, per trip unless that person is the owner or operator of a fishing vessel issued a summer flounder moratorium permit, or is issued a summer flounder dealer permit. Persons aboard a commercial vessel that is not eligible for a summer flounder moratorium permit are subject to this possession limit. The owner, operator, and crew of a charter or party boat issued a summer flounder moratorium permit are subject to the possession limit when carrying passengers for hire or when carrying more than five crew members for a party boat, or more than three crew members for a charter boat. This possession limit may be adjusted pursuant to the procedures in § 648.102. * * * * * (c) Summer flounder harvested by vessels subject to the possession limit with more than one person on board may be pooled in one or more containers. Compliance with the PO 00000 Frm 00082 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 4700 possession limit will be determined by dividing the number of summer flounder on board by the number of persons on board, other than the captain and the crew. If there is a violation of the possession limit on board a vessel carrying more than one person, the violation shall be deemed to have been committed by the owner and operator of the vessel. * * * * * 3. In § 648.107, paragraph (a) introductory text is revised to read as follows: ■ § 648.107 Conservation equivalent measures for the summer flounder fishery. (a) The Regional Administrator has determined that the recreational fishing measures implemented by the states of Maine through North Carolina for 2015 are the conservation equivalent of the season, minimum size, and possession limit prescribed in §§ 648.102, 648.103, and 648.105(a), respectively. This determination is based on a recommendation from the Summer Flounder Board of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission. * * * * * 4. In § 648.128, paragraphs (a) and (c) are revised to read as follows: ■ § 648.128 Scup possession restrictions. (a) Party/Charter and recreational possession limits. No person shall possess more than 50 scup in, or harvested from, per trip the EEZ unless that person is the owner or operator of a fishing vessel issued a scup moratorium permit, or is issued a scup dealer permit. Persons aboard a commercial vessel that is not eligible for a scup moratorium permit are subject to this possession limit. The owner, operator, and crew of a charter or party boat issued a scup moratorium permit are subject to the possession limit when carrying passengers for hire or when carrying more than five crew members for a party boat, or more than three crew members for a charter boat. This possession limit may be adjusted pursuant to the procedures in § 648.122. * * * * * (c) Scup harvested by vessels subject to the possession limit with more than one person aboard may be pooled in one or more containers. Compliance with the possession limit will be determined by dividing the number of scup on board by the number of persons aboard other than the captain and crew. If there is a violation of the possession limit on board a vessel carrying more than one person, the violation shall be deemed to E:\FR\FM\19JNR1.SGM 19JNR1 Federal Register / Vol. 80, No. 118 / Friday, June 19, 2015 / Rules and Regulations have been committed by the owner and operator. * * * * * ■ 5. In § 648.145, paragraphs (a) and (c) are revised to read as follows: § 648.145 Black sea bass possession limit. rmajette on DSK2TPTVN1PROD with RULES (a) During the recreational fishing season specified at § 648.146, no person shall possess more than 15 black sea bass in, or harvested from, per trip the EEZ unless that person is the owner or operator of a fishing vessel issued a black sea bass moratorium permit, or is issued a black sea bass dealer permit. Persons aboard a commercial vessel that is not eligible for a black sea bass moratorium permit may not retain more than 15 black sea bass during the recreational fishing season specified at § 648.146. The owner, operator, and VerDate Sep<11>2014 15:11 Jun 18, 2015 Jkt 235001 crew of a charter or party boat issued a black sea bass moratorium permit are subject to the possession limit when carrying passengers for hire or when carrying more than five crew members for a party boat, or more than three crew members for a charter boat. This possession limit may be adjusted pursuant to the procedures in § 648.142. * * * * * (c) Black sea bass harvested by vessels subject to the possession limit with more than one person aboard may be pooled in one or more containers. Compliance with the possession limit will be determined by dividing the number of black sea bass on board by the number of persons aboard, other than the captain and the crew. If there is a violation of the possession limit on board a vessel carrying more than one PO 00000 Frm 00083 Fmt 4700 Sfmt 9990 35259 person, the violation shall be deemed to have been committed by the owner and operator of the vessel. * * * * * 6. Section 648.146 is revised to read as follows: ■ § 648.146 Black sea bass recreational fishing season. Vessels that are not eligible for a moratorium permit under § 648.4(a)(7), and fishermen subject to the possession limit specified in § 648.145(a), may only possess black sea bass from May 15 through September 21, and October 22 through December 31, unless this time period is adjusted pursuant to the procedures in § 648.142. [FR Doc. 2015–15086 Filed 6–18–15; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 3510–22–P E:\FR\FM\19JNR1.SGM 19JNR1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 80, Number 118 (Friday, June 19, 2015)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 35255-35259]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2015-15086]


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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 648

[Docket No. 150211144-5509-02]
RIN 0648-BE89


Fisheries of the Northeastern United States; Recreational 
Management Measures for the Summer Flounder, Scup, and Black Sea Bass 
Fisheries; Fishing Year 2015

AGENCY: National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and 
Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce.

ACTION: Final rule.

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SUMMARY: NMFS is implementing management measures for the 2015 summer 
flounder, scup, and black sea bass recreational fisheries. The 
implementing regulations for these fisheries require NMFS to publish 
recreational measures for each fishing year. The intent of these 
measures is to constrain recreational catch to established limits and 
prevent overfishing of the summer flounder, scup, and black sea bass 
resources.

DATES: Effective June 19, 2015.

ADDRESSES: Copies of the Supplemental Information Report and other 
supporting documents for the recreational harvest measures are 
available from Dr. Christopher M. Moore, Executive Director, Mid-
Atlantic Fishery Management Council, Suite 201, 800 N. State Street, 
Dover, DE 19901. The recreational harvest measures document is also 
accessible via the Internet at: http://www.greateratlantic.fisheries.noaa.gov.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Moira Kelly, Fishery Policy Analyst, 
(978) 281-9218.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

General Background

    The summer flounder, scup, and black sea bass fisheries are managed 
cooperatively under the provisions of the Summer Flounder, Scup, and 
Black Sea Bass Fishery Management Plan (FMP) developed by the Mid-
Atlantic Fishery Management Council and the Atlantic States Marine 
Fisheries Commission, in consultation with the New England and South 
Atlantic Fishery Management Councils. The management units specified in 
the FMP include summer flounder (Paralichthys dentatus) in U.S. waters 
of the Atlantic Ocean from the southern border of North Carolina 
northward to the U.S./Canada border, and scup (Stenotomus chrysops) and 
black sea bass (Centropristis striata) in U.S. waters of the Atlantic 
Ocean from 35[deg]13.3' N. lat. (the approximate latitude of Cape 
Hatteras, North Carolina) northward to the U.S./Canada border. States 
manage these three species within 3 nautical miles (4.83 km) of their 
coasts, under the Commission's plan for summer flounder, scup, and 
black sea bass. The applicable species-specific Federal regulations 
govern vessels and individual fishermen fishing in Federal waters of 
the exclusive economic zone (EEZ), as well as vessels possessing a 
summer flounder, scup, or black sea bass Federal charter/party vessel 
permit, regardless of where they fish.
    A proposed rule to implement the 2015 Federal recreational 
management measures (minimum fish size, season, and possession limit) 
for the summer flounder, scup, and black sea bass fisheries was 
published in the Federal Register on May 5, 2015 (80 FR 25656), with a 
15-day comment period that ended on May 20, 2015. Additional background 
and information on the process to develop the measures described is 
provided in the preamble to the proposed rule and is not repeated here.

2015 Recreational Management Measures

    NMFS is implementing the following measures that would apply in the 
Federal waters of the EEZ. These measures apply to all federally 
permitted party/charter vessels with applicable summer flounder, scup, 
or black sea bass permits, regardless of where they fish, unless the 
state in which they land implements measures that are more restrictive. 
These measures are intended to achieve, but not exceed, the previously 
established recreational harvest limits for these fisheries (December 
30, 2014; 79 FR 78311). More detail on these proposed measures is 
provided in the following sections.

[[Page 35256]]



       Table 1--Summary of 2015 Summer Flounder, Scup, and Black Sea Bass Recreational Management Measures
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                                          Minimum size          Possession limit                Season
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Summer Flounder, through December     Conservation equivalency--specific management measures determined by state
 31, 2015.                                                     of landing (see Table 2).
                                    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------
Summer Flounder, beginning January   18 inches (45.7 cm)...  4 fish................  May 1-September 30.
 1, 2016.
Scup...............................  9 inches (25.4 cm)....  50 fish...............  January 1-December 31.
Black Sea Bass.....................  12.5 inches (31.8 cm).  15 fish...............  May 15-September 18,
                                                                                      October 22-December 31.
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Summer Flounder Recreational Management Measures

    This rule implements the Council and Commission recommendation to 
use conservation equivalency to manage the 2015 summer flounder 
recreational fishery. The 2015 recreational harvest limit for summer 
flounder is 7.38 million lb (3,347 mt). Final landings for 2014 were 
7.39 million lb (3,354 mt), just above the recreational harvest limit 
for 2015.
    Conservation equivalency, as established by Framework Adjustment 2 
(July 29, 2011; 66 FR 36208), allows each state to establish its own 
recreational management measures to achieve its state harvest limit 
partitioned by the Commission from the coastwide recreational harvest 
limit, as long as the combined effect of all of the states' management 
measures achieves the same level of conservation as would Federal 
coastwide measures. Framework Adjustment 6 (July 26, 2006; 71 FR 42315) 
allowed states to form regions for conservation equivalency in order to 
minimize differences in regulations for anglers fishing in adjacent 
waters.
    The Council and Board voted to maintain the conservation 
equivalency structure that was in place for fishing year 2014, as 
follows: (1) Massachusettes; (2) Rhode Island; (3) Connecticut, New 
York, and New Jersey; (4) Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia; and (5) 
North Carolina. All states within a region must implement identical 
measures (i.e., minimum size, possession limit, and season length). By 
implementing conservation equivalency, the Federal summer flounder 
regulations are suspended, and vessels are only subject to the measures 
for the state in which they land. This means that minimum fish sizes, 
possession limits, and fishing seasons developed and adopted by the 
five regions from Massachusetts to North Carolina replace the Federal 
waters measures for 2015.
    The Commission notified the NMFS Greater Atlantic Regional 
Administrator by letter dated April 30, 2015, that the 2015 summer 
flounder recreational fishery management measures implemented by the 
states and regions described above have been reviewed by the 
Commission's Technical Committee and approved by the Commission's 
Summer Flounder Management Board. The correspondence indicates that the 
Commission-approved management measures are projected to restrict 2015 
recreational summer flounder coastwide landings consistent with the 
state-specific requirements established by the Technical Committee and 
Board through the Commission process.
    Based on the recommendation of the Commission, we find that the 
recreational summer flounder fishing measures implemented for 2015 in 
state waters are, collectively, the conservation equivalent of the 
season, minimum size, and possession limit prescribed in Sec. Sec.  
648.104(b), 648.105, and 648.106(a), respectively. According to Sec.  
648.107(a)(1), vessels subject to the recreational fishing measures of 
this part and landing summer flounder in a state with an approved 
conservation equivalency program shall not be subject to Federal 
measures, and shall instead be subject to the recreational fishing 
measures implemented by the state in which they land. Section 
648.107(a) has been amended to recognize state-implemented measures as 
conservation equivalent of the coastwide recreational management 
measures for 2015. The 2015 summer flounder management measures adopted 
by the individual states vary according to the state of landing, as 
specified in Table 2.

 Table 2--2015 Commission-Approved Conservation Equivalent Recreational Management Measures for Summer Flounder
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                       Minimum size    Minimum size    Possession limit
                State                    (inches)          (cm)        (number of fish)         Open season
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Massachusetts.......................              16            40.6                   5  May 22-September 30.
Rhode Island........................              18            45.7                   8  May 1-December 31.
Connecticut *.......................              18            45.7                   5  May 17-September 21.
New York............................              18            45.7                   5  May 17-September 21.
New Jersey *........................              18            45.7                   5  May 23-September 26.
Delaware............................              16            40.6                   4  All Year.
Maryland............................              16            40.6                   4  All Year.
Potomac River Fisheries Commission..              16            40.6                   4  All year.
Virginia............................              16            40.6                   4  All year.
North Carolina......................              15            38.1                   6  All Year.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
* Note: At 46 designated shore sites in Connecticut, anglers may keep 5 fish at 16 inches (40.6 cm), May 17-
  September 21. At 1 designated site in New Jersey, anglers may keep 2 fish at 16.0 inches (40.6 cm), May 23-
  September 26.

    In addition, this action maintains the current default coastwide 
measures (18-inch (45.7-cm) minimum size, 4-fish possession limit, May 
1-September 30 open fishing season), that become effective January 1, 
2016, when conservation equivalency expires.

[[Page 35257]]

Scup Recreational Management Measures

    NMFS is implementing the Council and Commission's recommended scup 
recreational management measures for 2015 in Federal waters. The 
measures for the 2015 scup recreational fishery are: 9-inch (22.9-cm) 
minimum fish size; 50-fish per person per trip possession limit; and an 
open season of January 1 through December 31.
    The 2015 scup recreational harvest limit is 6.80 million lb (3,084 
mt). Final 2014 scup recreational landings were 4.12 million lb (1,870 
mt). The increase in the possession limit from 30 to 50 fish is 
intended to promote an increase in recreational scup fishing in order 
to more fully achieve, but not exceed, the recreational harvest limit.

Black Sea Bass Recreational Management Measures

    This final rule implements the Council and Commission's recommended 
recreational management measures to constrain landings for black sea 
bass in 2015: A 12.5-inch (31.8-cm) minimum size, 15-fish possession 
limit, and open seasons of May 15-September 21 and October 22-December 
31. The 2015 black sea bass recreational harvest limit is 2.33 million 
lb (1,056 mt). The final 2014 landings were 3.65 million lb (1,656 mt). 
During development of these and the state measures, projected landings 
for 2014 were 3.45 million lb (1,565 mt), which requires a 33-percent 
reduction in landings relative to the 2015 recreational harvest limit.
    Recreational black sea bass catch occurs primarily in state waters 
in the states of New Jersey through Massachusetts (i.e., the northern 
region). Since 2011, the management measures in the northern region 
have been more restrictive than in Federal waters. The northern states, 
through the Commission process, have implemented 2015 measures to 
achieve the 33-percent reduction in landings from each state that was 
projected to be needed when this action was under development. This 
reduction, in combination with the Council's recommendation of 
maintaining the status quo measures in Federal waters, are intended to 
achieve, but not exceed, the recreational harvest limit and 
recreational annual catch limit in 2015. The southern region states 
(Delaware through Cape Hatteras, North Carolina) have implemented state 
waters measures that are equivalent to the Federal measures. The states 
of Maine and New Hampshire have implemented recreational black sea bass 
measures for the first time in response to the stock being more 
commonly found in these states' waters.
    In 2012, recreational black sea bass catch exceeded the annual 
catch limit of 2.52 million lb (1,143 mt) by 129 percent. In 2013, 
recreational black sea bass catch exceeded the annual catch limit of 
2.9 million lb (1,315 mt) by 5 percent. Because the average catch for 
these two years exceeds the average annual catch limit from the same 
timeframe, as described in the regulations, an accountability measure 
is applicable to the 2015 fishery. An accountability measure was 
implemented for the 2014 fishing year because of the 2012 overage. The 
2015 measures are functionally the same as those implemented last year 
to comply with the accountability measure (12.5-inch (31.8-cm) minimum 
size, 15-fish possession limit, and 201-day fishing season). Continuing 
these regulations preserves the accountability measure that was applied 
last year; as such, no further accountability measures are necessary 
for 2015.

Additional Regulatory Change

    This rule also clarifies that the regulations for summer flounder, 
scup, and black sea bass possession limits are per person, per trip. 
While it is clear in the FMP and subsequent amendments and framework 
adjustments that the possession limits are intended to apply for the 
entirety of a fishing trip, regardless of the length of that trip, the 
regulations were less specific. This action corrects that oversight.

Comments and Responses

    Three comments were received on the proposed rule. These comments 
were not directly related to the 2015 recreational management measures 
as proposed, but raised more general issues. No changes to the 2015 
recreational management measures are being made as a result.
    Comment 1: The first commenter expressed concern that reduced black 
sea bass fishing would result in increased pressure on other stocks, 
such as red hake, bluefish, and winter flounder, and noted a marked 
increase in fishing on red hake when other recreational fisheries have 
restrictive measures. The commenter advised leaving the fishery open 
during the summer months.
    Response: The Federal black sea bass fishery will be open during 
the summer months, but some states may implement more restrictive 
seasons in order to achieve the reduction necessary, described above. 
NMFS has no authority over the states' measures and they are not the 
subject of this rule. In addition, the other species noted by the 
commenter are all federally managed species with annual catch limits 
and accountability measures designed to ensure catch stays within 
scientifically-based levels.
    Comment 2: The second commenter was not specific to which measures 
he was referring, but noted that recreational measures should not be 
made more restrictive and that more restrictive measures should be 
placed on the commercial fishery.
    Response: This rulemaking is specific to the recreational fisheries 
for summer flounder, scup, and black sea bass only. For all three 
species managed under the Summer Flounder, Scup, and Black Sea Bass 
FMP, the commercial and recreational sectors have separate annual catch 
limits. The amount of landings allocated to each sector is specified in 
the FMP. This allocation structure is intended to ensure that neither 
sector is held accountable for catch overages in the other sector. The 
commercial fisheries are regulated with seasonal, gear, permit, and 
landings restrictions. These combinations of measures, both in Federal 
and state waters, are designed to achieve, but not exceed, the 
commercial coastwide landings quotas. The commercial accountability 
measures require a pound-for-pound payback of any quota or annual catch 
limit overages. In recent years, small overages of the commercial quota 
or commercial annual catch limit have been accounted for by reducing 
the following year's quota equal to the amount of the overage, as 
needed. Further restrictions on the commercial fishery are not 
warranted at this time. Should the commercial catch need to be reduced 
for any of these species, those changes would be implemented in a 
commercial sector-specific rulemaking.
    Comment 3: The commenter noted that limits on the number and size 
of fish caught recreationally were important to the long-term 
sustainability of the fisheries.
    Response: NMFS agrees and is implementing these measures 
specifically to ensure that the scientifically-based recreational 
harvest limits are not exceeded.

Classification

    The Administrator, Greater Atlantic Region, NMFS, determined that 
the rule implementing the 2015 summer flounder, scup, and black sea 
bass recreational management measures is necessary for the conservation 
and management of the summer flounder, scup, and black sea bass 
fisheries and that it is consistent with the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery 
Conservation and

[[Page 35258]]

Management Act and other applicable laws.
    This final rule has been determined to be not significant for 
purposes of Executive Order 12866.
    The Assistant Administrator for Fisheries, NOAA, finds good cause 
to waive the requirement for a 30-day delay in effectiveness under the 
provisions of section 553(d) of the Administrative Procedure Act 
because a delay in its effectiveness would not serve any legitimate 
purpose, while unfairly prejudicing federally permitted charter/party 
vessels. This action will increase the possession limit for the 
recreational scup fishery in Federal waters and allow federally 
permitted charter/party vessels to be subject to the new summer 
flounder measures in their respective states. Because some states' 
summer flounder fisheries are already open or will open during the 30-
day period following publication of this rule, federally permitted 
charter/party vessels would be restricted to the existing summer 
flounder coastwide regulations (18-inch (45.7-cm) minimum size and a 4-
fish per person possession limit) until the Federal regulations are 
effective. This would unnecessarily disadvantage federally permitted 
vessels, which would be subject to the more restrictive measures while 
state-licensed vessels could be engaged in fishing activities under 
this year's management measures. If this final rule were delayed for 30 
days, the fishery would likely forego some amount of landings and 
revenues during the delay period.
    While these restrictions would be alleviated after this rule 
becomes effective, fishermen may be not able to recoup the lost 
economic opportunity of foregone trips that would result from delaying 
the effectiveness of this action. Finally, requiring a 30-day delay 
before the final rule becomes effective would not provide any benefit 
to the regulated parties. Unlike actions that require an adjustment 
period to comply with new rules, charter/party operators will not have 
to purchase new equipment or otherwise expend time or money to comply 
with these management measures. Rather, complying with this final rule 
simply means adhering to the published management measures for each 
relevant species of fish while the charter/party operators are engaged 
in fishing activities.
    For these reasons, the Assistant Administrator finds good cause to 
waive the 30-day delay and to implement this rule upon publication in 
the Federal Register.
    The Chief Counsel for Regulation of the Department of Commerce 
certified to the Chief Counsel for Advocacy of the Small Business 
Administration during the proposed rule stage that this action would 
not have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small 
entities. The factual basis for the certification was published in the 
proposed rule and is not repeated here. No comments were received 
regarding this certification. As a result, a regulatory flexibility 
analysis was not required and none was prepared. There are no new 
reporting or recordkeeping requirements contained in any of the 
alternatives considered for this action.

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 648

    Fisheries, Fishing, Reporting and recordkeeping requirements.

     Dated: June 15, 2015.
Samuel D. Rauch III,
Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, National Marine 
Fisheries Service.

    For the reasons set out in the preamble, 50 CFR part 648 is amended 
as follows:

PART 648--FISHERIES OF THE NORTHEASTERN UNITED STATES

0
1. The authority citation for part 648 continues to read as follows:

    Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq.


0
2. In Sec.  648.106, paragraphs (a) and (c) are revised to read as 
follows:


Sec.  648.106  Summer flounder possession restrictions.

    (a) Party/charter and recreational possession limits. Unless 
otherwise specified pursuant to Sec.  648.107, no person shall possess 
more than four summer flounder in, or harvested from, the EEZ, per trip 
unless that person is the owner or operator of a fishing vessel issued 
a summer flounder moratorium permit, or is issued a summer flounder 
dealer permit. Persons aboard a commercial vessel that is not eligible 
for a summer flounder moratorium permit are subject to this possession 
limit. The owner, operator, and crew of a charter or party boat issued 
a summer flounder moratorium permit are subject to the possession limit 
when carrying passengers for hire or when carrying more than five crew 
members for a party boat, or more than three crew members for a charter 
boat. This possession limit may be adjusted pursuant to the procedures 
in Sec.  648.102.
* * * * *
    (c) Summer flounder harvested by vessels subject to the possession 
limit with more than one person on board may be pooled in one or more 
containers. Compliance with the possession limit will be determined by 
dividing the number of summer flounder on board by the number of 
persons on board, other than the captain and the crew. If there is a 
violation of the possession limit on board a vessel carrying more than 
one person, the violation shall be deemed to have been committed by the 
owner and operator of the vessel.
* * * * *

0
3. In Sec.  648.107, paragraph (a) introductory text is revised to read 
as follows:


Sec.  648.107  Conservation equivalent measures for the summer flounder 
fishery.

    (a) The Regional Administrator has determined that the recreational 
fishing measures implemented by the states of Maine through North 
Carolina for 2015 are the conservation equivalent of the season, 
minimum size, and possession limit prescribed in Sec. Sec.  648.102, 
648.103, and 648.105(a), respectively. This determination is based on a 
recommendation from the Summer Flounder Board of the Atlantic States 
Marine Fisheries Commission.
* * * * *

0
4. In Sec.  648.128, paragraphs (a) and (c) are revised to read as 
follows:


Sec.  648.128  Scup possession restrictions.

    (a) Party/Charter and recreational possession limits. No person 
shall possess more than 50 scup in, or harvested from, per trip the EEZ 
unless that person is the owner or operator of a fishing vessel issued 
a scup moratorium permit, or is issued a scup dealer permit. Persons 
aboard a commercial vessel that is not eligible for a scup moratorium 
permit are subject to this possession limit. The owner, operator, and 
crew of a charter or party boat issued a scup moratorium permit are 
subject to the possession limit when carrying passengers for hire or 
when carrying more than five crew members for a party boat, or more 
than three crew members for a charter boat. This possession limit may 
be adjusted pursuant to the procedures in Sec.  648.122.
* * * * *
    (c) Scup harvested by vessels subject to the possession limit with 
more than one person aboard may be pooled in one or more containers. 
Compliance with the possession limit will be determined by dividing the 
number of scup on board by the number of persons aboard other than the 
captain and crew. If there is a violation of the possession limit on 
board a vessel carrying more than one person, the violation shall be 
deemed to

[[Page 35259]]

have been committed by the owner and operator.
* * * * *

0
5. In Sec.  648.145, paragraphs (a) and (c) are revised to read as 
follows:


Sec.  648.145  Black sea bass possession limit.

    (a) During the recreational fishing season specified at Sec.  
648.146, no person shall possess more than 15 black sea bass in, or 
harvested from, per trip the EEZ unless that person is the owner or 
operator of a fishing vessel issued a black sea bass moratorium permit, 
or is issued a black sea bass dealer permit. Persons aboard a 
commercial vessel that is not eligible for a black sea bass moratorium 
permit may not retain more than 15 black sea bass during the 
recreational fishing season specified at Sec.  648.146. The owner, 
operator, and crew of a charter or party boat issued a black sea bass 
moratorium permit are subject to the possession limit when carrying 
passengers for hire or when carrying more than five crew members for a 
party boat, or more than three crew members for a charter boat. This 
possession limit may be adjusted pursuant to the procedures in Sec.  
648.142.
* * * * *
    (c) Black sea bass harvested by vessels subject to the possession 
limit with more than one person aboard may be pooled in one or more 
containers. Compliance with the possession limit will be determined by 
dividing the number of black sea bass on board by the number of persons 
aboard, other than the captain and the crew. If there is a violation of 
the possession limit on board a vessel carrying more than one person, 
the violation shall be deemed to have been committed by the owner and 
operator of the vessel.
* * * * *

0
6. Section 648.146 is revised to read as follows:


Sec.  648.146  Black sea bass recreational fishing season.

    Vessels that are not eligible for a moratorium permit under Sec.  
648.4(a)(7), and fishermen subject to the possession limit specified in 
Sec.  648.145(a), may only possess black sea bass from May 15 through 
September 21, and October 22 through December 31, unless this time 
period is adjusted pursuant to the procedures in Sec.  648.142.

[FR Doc. 2015-15086 Filed 6-18-15; 8:45 am]
 BILLING CODE 3510-22-P